16 April 2004

U.S. Open to Plan That Supplants Council in Iraq

The Bush administration accepted on Thursday the outlines of a United Nations proposal to dissolve the Iraqi Governing Council installed last year by the United States and replace it with a caretaker government when Iraqi sovereignty is restored on July 1.

Administration officials said that the proposal by Lakhdar Brahimi, the special United Nations envoy in Iraq, to create a new government of prominent Iraqis had many details to be worked out, but that for now it was acceptable to President Bush.

'I don't see anything at this point in what he's proposing that would be of concern to us,' said Condoleezza Rice, the national security adviser, in an interview, adding that Mr. Brahimi's mission 'thus far has been very successful.'

Secretary of State Colin L. Powell also supported the plan, while Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, without explicitly approving it said it was likely to become a reality.

The Brahimi plan would replace the American-appointed Iraqi Governing Council with a transition government whose leaders would be appointed by the United Nations, after consultations with the United States, the Governing Council and other Iraqis. It could include members of the current Governing Council, but it is unclear how it would balance religious and regional rivalries within Iraq.

By endorsing the Brahimi plan, the administration seemed to accept diminished American influence over the Iraqi political process as self-rule approaches and after power has passed back to Baghdad. The move was the latest abandonment of an element of the plan the Americans arrived at on Nov. 15, specifying the June 30 transfer.

This is the best news out of Iraq in weeks, although if the interim constitution remains in its present form Brahimi may just be setting up a three-way power struggle between the transitional government, the inherited special agencies controlled by Chalabi, and the US in the form of its giant embassy with control of security and finance.

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